Growing up as a socially awkward geek, fashion was not much of a priority. What I wore were t-shirts, polo shirts, and jeans. Even by high school this didn’t change much. The mid-80s were a highly fashionable time, with a wealth of styles to choose from, but I stuck to what I knew. I didn’t see much point in changing that.
I didn’t think about clothes much. T-shirts tended to be of things I knew and liked, or solid colors. There wasn’t much thought put into them beyond that.
Something happened, though, one day in the mall. I saw a long-sleeved blue overshirt that I just had to have. I can’t tell you what it was about it, but it was just perfect for some reason. The color, the look, the thickness of the fabric, it spoke to me as no article of clothing ever had before. It was expensive: $30 (equivalent of $66 of today’s dollars), which was more than I could conceive of spending on a single article of clothing. I didn’t have the cash for such a thing, and it would have been weird for me to ask my folks for it, so I passed it by. But the next day I was still thinking about it, and I convinced my parents to let me get it, which I’m sure they found just as weird as I did.
As you can see in the photo above, taken in 1985 or 1986, there was nothing to it. No one would look at that shirt and think it was special in any way, but it was. I wore it as often as possible, unbuttoned over a t-shirt. The pants I’m wearing in that picture were army surplus fatigue pants, which I had gravitated towards. The shoes were gray New Balance sneakers. Often there were small pins on the shirt as well: Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, mottos of some kind.
Without thinking, I had developed…a style.
It wasn’t much, but it was something. And it was mine. This period of time, 1985-ish, was a tremendous period of growth for me, not just physically, but in my identity. The blue shirt was possibly the first item of clothing I had purchased that worked beyond simple function. I mythologized the shirt, as I am wont to do, declaring it bulletproof (something that, when I posted the above picture on Facebook the other day, an old friend from that time remembered.) That photo above is my senior picture. Along with the cap-and-gown shot and the tuxedo shot there’s usually a Sunday Best shot. I instead wore the above. Some folks (named my parents) thought that was dumb, but I wanted to be photographed as I was. That was what I wore. I’m glad I did it.
I never progressed much past that style. To this day I tend to wear t-shirts with casual, non-jeans pants, and yes, open overshirts (or hoodies). I’ve never found another shirt that felt as right as that one; the fabric is usually too thin or too heavy. But I’m always looking out for one.
When did I get it? I’m pretty sure it was 1985.
Do I still have it? Sadly, no. When I lived in Lafayette, a friend was in town for work, staying at a hotel. I went and visited her there and realized too late that I had left it behind. Neither she nor the hotel found it.